Christopher Anderson was born in Canada and grew up in west Texas. He first gained recognition for his pictures in 1999 when he boarded a handmade, wooden boat with Haitian refugees trying to sail to America. The boat, named the Believe In God, sank in the Caribbean. In 2000 the images from that journey would receive the Robert Capa Gold Medal. They would also mark the emergence of an emotionally charged style that he refers to as “experiential documentary” and has come to characterize his work since. “Emotion or feeling is really the only thing about pictures I find interesting. Beyond that it is just a trick”, Anderson says.
He is well known and respected for many of his works, but to me, there are some that will always have a special place, and among the dearest is his Bethlehem series. I love how he manages to capture the brutality and limitations (like the wall, and numerous controls and checkpoints Palestinians face every day), because that is necessary – we need to be aware and need to “keep it real”. But, at the same time, Anderson does this wonderful thing – he also captures the freedom, the infinite beauty of a smile, or children’s play. We need that too, because that is where the power is hidden – power to change all those bad, “keep it real” facts. That is what keeps people alive, and not just merely surviving.
This is not how Mary and Joseph came into Bethlehem, but this is how you enter now. You wait at the wall. It’s a daunting concrete barricade, three stories high, thorned with razor wire. Standing beside it, you feel as if you’re at the base of a dam. Israeli soldiers armed with assault rifles examine your papers. They search your vehicle. No Israeli civilian, by military order, is allowed in. And few Bethlehem residents are permitted out, the reason the wall exists here, according to the Israeli government, is to keep terrorists away from Jerusalem.
For more of the magic Anderson does, visit his official website.